Who is Making Apps in 2017? – A Small Business Market Roundup
One of the biggest debates for marketers and small business owners taking place in 2017 surrounds the subject of mobile app development. These conversations are fueled by the fact that small businesses can finally afford to develop their own, branded, mobile apps and catch up to the larger organizations that have already been benefiting from this business tool for a couple of years.
The biggest driver behind the growing number of SMB mobile apps is price. Previously, apps had to be built from the ground up and only just now are they becoming affordable. These new mobile development solutions are far less costly, because they do not build every app from scratch. Rather, the programming and designing is done once in the form of a skeleton app template, which a business can then brand with their logo and name. While this slightly limits how much design and functionality freedom a company has, this type of solution is a lot more realistic for small businesses.
The other reason small businesses are building apps is that the technology has been tested and proven effective by larger companies. Small business owners now know it is a safe investment that will produce a positive ROI. Smaller companies (with smaller budgets) let their bigger competitors take the risk of experimenting with novel strategies. Even though this puts them behind their larger counterparts, it helps eliminate the risk of investing poorly.
Who Is Building Apps?
Of course, the answer to this question is small businesses, as the majority of larger companies have already built their apps. That said, we can take an even closer look at determining the types of small businesses that are most likely to build and profit from a mobile solution. Clutch surveyed 355 US small business owners and uncovered some interesting patterns and insights:
- Small businesses with a younger owner (under 45 years old) are twice as likely to have an app compared to an organization owned by an older individual.
- Company size affects mobile adoptions too, with only 15% of businesses with fewer than ten employees developing an app. Meanwhile, a small business with 51-500 employees is 65% more likely to build an app.
What Are Apps Being Designed For?
Remember, people don’t download a brand app just because it is offered. This means your app has to deliver value to the customer for them to want to hit that download button (and actively use the app). Thus, developers are focusing less on direct selling via mobile and more on ways to increase customer value, which in turn will produce a better bottom line. Ultimately, the end goal – increasing revenue and sales – are still intact, but the avenues through which mobile apps reach that result have shifted.
What Features Do Small Business Apps Include?
When it comes to features, there is a give and take that requires a careful balance. An app overloaded with features can be overwhelming for the user; not to mention, you will use a lot of resources developing all of the different features. Instead, your aim should be to utilize the a few features that your target audience expects and promise the highest ROI.
Here’s a breakdown of the valuable features used today by many SMBs – each of these features boasts high ROIs that are easy to measure:
- Social integration – 20%
- Mobile payment – 19%
- Personalization – 15%
- Customer loyalty program – 13%
- Location-based services – 12%
- In-app scheduling – 11%
- Push notifications – 11%
How Are Apps Being Built?
As a result of all this mobile app buzz, the most common questions include “How to make an app?” and “Who are the best app builders?”. But, that is a tough question to answer because of all the different types of mobile solutions. Every option, from an in-house team to a DIY builder, offers different benefits and incurs different costs.
1. In-house Team: An in-house solution is the most expensive as it requires hiring someone that specializes in mobile development. Depending on the size of the company, multiple individuals may have to be hired. Aside from the cost of their salary, it could consume lots of resources just going through the interview and hiring process.
That said, in-house mobile development is also one of the most advantageous solutions. Keeping development inside the fold means those responsible for building the app have an intimate, first-hand knowledge of the organization, its challenges, and its customers, whereas an outside agency lacks this. In-house developers also have a lot more at stake, as their well-being is attached to the company. Thus, the better they perform, the greater their reward is.
2. Outsourced Agency: Outsourcing is an attractive route because it yields high quality results and costs less than developing an app in-house. Since these agencies generally exclusively build business apps, they have a lot of knowledge and experience. This means they can handle even the most unique app design project with relative ease.
The drawbacks to outsourcing your mobile development are the same as outsourcing any other business dimension. For one, communication can be a challenge, not just with regards to conveying thoughts and ideas correctly, but also being able to reach someone. Imagine the app has a sudden, major issue and the company can’t reach someone quickly to resolve it. Additionally, an outside development agency doesn’t always have an invested interest in the success of their clients. Once they’ve been paid for their work on developing the app, service might take a noticeable decline.
3. Freelance Consultation: This path to building an app is even cheaper than an outsourced agency, but it usually has to be combined with an app builder or similar service. Instead of paying for the mobile development, this strategy allows a business to pay for the knowledge and understanding required to make their own app.
There are singular freelance developers who will also build your app. This has a lot of the same drawbacks as an outsourced agency and then some. A freelancer can be even harder to reach in an emergency because they are just one person. On the plus side, freelancers can be more motivated to produce results, since their reputation is more fragile.
4. App Builder Software: This is the cheapest option available for small businesses, but comes with it’s own pros and cons. Using an app builder software means being stuck within the confines of the software. This can make it difficult to produce a truly unique app, as there are only so many templates and features to choose from. Thus, getting creative and going outside the box with the design or functionality is nearly impossible. But on the flipside, the top app builders are built on a solid framework which reduces the headaches of having to keep your app up to date. You can rely on their software to make sure you are in compliance with strict app store guidelines.
Despite these shortcomings, it’s important to note that there are a lot of app builders available. They span all different price ranges, and each offers its own set of features and templates. With the right research, a business can find an app builder that fits their ideal specifications, without spending too much or having to learn how to code.
5. Blending In-house and Outsourced: While the most expensive solution, this blend yields the best end product. The in-house team lends its knowledge of the company and its customers, while the agency brings the specialized expertise. Together, they blend to make a product that fits within the scope of the business and is scalable to meet future technologies and trends.
The market for these mobile solutions is still in its infancy. Small businesses should be – at a minimum – beginning to plan for their own app, which means any small business owner is currently in the right position. However, spending an excess of time on planning means there is a risk of missing out on the current, unpopulated status of the small business app marketplace. Small businesses without a functioning and valuable (both regarding customer experience and potential ROI) app should immediately begin exploring these strategies.